Obama arrives in UK for talks on Brexit, lunch with queen

21st April 2016, Comments 0 comments

US President Barack Obama arrived in Britain on Thursday where he is expected to wade into the poisonous Brexit debate and have lunch with Queen Elizabeth II.

Air Force One touched down at London Stansted Airport, northeast of the British capital, at around 9:45 pm (2045 GMT), beginning what is Obama's fifth and likely final presidential visit to the kingdom.

Obama -- along with First Lady Michelle Obama -- will pay tribute to the queen, who turned 90 on Thursday, when they meet at Windsor Castle, west of London.

"The president has very much enjoyed his engagements with the queen over the years," said top Obama foreign policy aide Ben Rhodes.

The queen has reigned since 1952, during which time she has met with a string of US presidents from Harry Truman to Obama, who leaves office in January.

The popular monarch has little influence on politics despite her role as head of state, but over the decades she has been a figurehead and ballast for Britons navigating imperial decline, the Cold War and political tumult.

During birthday celebrations Thursday, Prime Minister David Cameron hailed her as "a rock of strength for our nation" while her son and heir Prince Charles marked the occasion by reading Shakespeare in a special broadcast on BBC radio.

After lunch at Windsor Castle on Friday, Obama will travel to Cameron's Downing Street office for talks that come ahead of a crunch British referendum on European Union membership on June 23.

Obama is sure to be asked to weigh in on the controversial issue during a joint press conference or at a town hall-style meeting with youngsters on Saturday.

Britain's departure from the EU -- a so-called Brexit -- could have deep ramifications for Washington's "special relationship" with London, and on the stability of the 28-country bloc itself.

Obama has consistently said he favours a strong Britain in a strong EU.

© 2016 AFP

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